Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Week in the Life of Mia -- A Photo Essay

Sometimes you just need to snap some pictures. This past week provided many opportunities for that. Here's a peak into the life of a now 10 month old Mia!

pinning the sprinkle onto the cupcake at 1 yr old's birthday party

smuggling in some goodies @ the new Five Guys

playing with a pacifier attached to a clip ... Mia's own num-chucks*
hanging out before church, gearing up for 1st visit to the babies bible class!

trying to console cousin Braden for picture time

sneaking into the kitchen

doing some personal shopping @ the grocery store*

watching lots of Olympics with Daddy ("Go Apolo!")*

'Twas a good week.

*photos courtesy of Greg's iPhone

Thursday, February 25, 2010

All About EPing

Having been a "mum" for nearly a year, there are so many great experiences I'd love to share. But for the next little while on this blog I'd like to spend some time sharing some experiences related to the choices we've made in raising Mia. These are by no means absolutes, as you'll see, but rather the choices we've made and why we've made them. I've had lots of questions along the way about why we do one thing or another, or wanting more details on how or why we chose a certain path. So I thought this forum would be a good place to share what I've learned.

Let me share with you some truths I have learned along the way regarding "Exclusively Pumping":

One truth: Breastfeeding is considered the most natural way to feed your baby, but sometimes for a new mom and brand new baby, it can feel anything but natural. There is certainly a learning curve to nursing, which can take time (generally up to 6 weeks, sometimes more/less) to master and feel comfortable with it for mom and baby.

Another truth: Learning to do something that is generally not talked about, but highly recommended, can be very isolating. The way I learned to feed Mia is something very, very personal to my heart and so it is with trepidation that I proceed to share our story, but I share it so that others may know and have it as an aid/help to them should they or someone else ever find themselves in a similar situation.

A third truth: I'm going to be talking about breasts, breast pumps, and breastmilk. This may make the casual observer squeamish, and if you find yourself in that boat, you may want to pass this post. On the other hand though, what I'm going to be talking about is perfectly natural and a fact of life as bajillions of babies have been breastfed for thousands of years. Many Americans are unfortunately uncomfortable talking about these things because the female body and breasts are so often associated with sexuality thanks to our society and pop culture, but God did indeed make them for another purpose (aside from sexuality): functionality and sustaining human life! Kind of neat when you think about it, and perhaps that will help reframe your mind if you are having weirdness thinking about these things. Or just think about a cow pumping milk. That'll always tone it down for ya ;)

Without further adieu...

As alluded to (and one of these days perhaps I will post a more complete birth story – detailed enough for the curious reader, but discreet enough to avoid too much graphic detail!), Mia was born 3 days early, in a free-standing birth center, a bit on the small side. Due to her small gestational size, we had to transfer to a children’s hospital --not a women’s hospital-- so she could be seen for evaluation. I was not able to successfully nurse Mia before we made the transfer. For a successful nursing relationship, it is suggested you put the baby to your chest and try to nurse as soon as possible after delivery, which we did try. While she had a great sucking reflex on Greg’s pinky finger, we were not able to latch on before we went to the hospital, which was just 5-6hrs after Mia’s birth. Even the first night we were in the hospital, Mia was given glucose water via a syringe until the next morning, when she was given her first (and one of only few) bottles of formula. The hospital staff wheeled in a breast pump for me and thus I began my first of many pumping sessions.

Being in the children’s hospital was different than being in a women’s center, where ob/gyns, ob/gyn nurses, and lactation consultants may abound. I was instead surrounded by nurses and doctors most commonly used to dealing with children and usually not day-old newborns. For whatever reason, there was a policy that LCs could not work in the children’s hospital. However, I was very blessed and had friends at the hospital who tried to round up as much lactation help as possible, finding nurses who had nursed, phone numbers for LCs, literature, etc. My doula came in one night to help us, as I had only been able to feed Mia via pumping and bottle feeding, and determined I needed a nipple shield. Heard of these? Well, the nipple shield helped Mia to actually nurse (yay!) but our nursing sessions were not sufficient enough to feed her adequately, not to mention it was still quite painful. So, back to the pump I would go to try to round up some more milk to fill her little tummy.

My goal was to exclusively nurse. I knew it was great nutritionally for Mia and myself and would be a convenient way to feed her, among dozens of other benefits. However, I was finding increasing difficulty in my new surroundings to nurse her with the support I needed. I was not at home, in a comfy place with lots of peace and quiet. I couldn’t see an LC, and I couldn't just take Mia out of the hospital to see an LC before she was discharged and given the "all-clear". Nurses and doctors bombarded me and techs walked into our room at any moment, which is sort of embarrassing if you have a pump plugged in and are looking like a cow. It was all very disorienting.

To make matters worse, after being in the hospital for a week and having some nursing sessions followed up by the pump and a bottle, I went home with the beginnings of mastitis. I proceeded to get mastitis two more times over the next two months, the next round beginning immediately after finishing antibiotic #1. Mastitis is a breast infection, which has flu-like symptoms like fever, red inflammation, engorgement, etc. The best way to treat mastitis is to empty out your breast (and nursing is more effective than pumping in this arena), drink lots of fluids and lots of rest. Aside from the fluids, two of those things I was not able to achieve. Rest? Nursing? Neither of those were happening very well with a newborn's schedule.

Add another week with occasionally trying to nurse but mostly pump, and a blood clot began to present itself in my leg. For me, talk about total physical and mental debilitation. I do not think I have ever been as discouraged in my life as I had been at that time. My number one concern was bulking up Mia, but nursing alone was not sufficient. I’d think she’d be done because she’d fall asleep while nursing, but 30 minutes later she’d wake up crying and I’d have to pump anyway while we gave her a bottle that was in the fridge. It was a never-ending depressing cycle and I dreaded each nursing session.

For whatever reason, I was not very comfortable discussing this with anybody. It was probably the baby blues. I think I was afraid people wouldn’t understand, be unsupportive, or judge me for not solely nursing my child. I guess I had encountered some people who have very strong opinions about these things and it was messing with my mind. I, of course, talked to Greg about it, my doula, the midwives, Juline, and maybe a few friends who I knew had experienced nursing difficulties. Talking to my doula helped relieve some pressure. She reminded me that there are women who only nurse certain times of the day, and formula feed the rest, or pump while they are away from the baby. For some reason I had not realized it does not have to be all or nothing. She suggested trying to nurse during the day, and pump at night as pumping was faster than actual nursing. I tried that suggestion until the blood clot pain worsened, and I felt that pumping only was easier and less tiresome on my body than trying to nurse. When I went into the hospital myself for mastitis #2, high fever and pulse, and the blood clot at 3 weeks postpartum, I was thankful for the bottles of breastmilk I had saved up from pumping in the freezer and refrigerator. I was still able to feed Mia without being physically present.

Lots of milk! (and some OJ)

Fast forward a few weeks. Thanks to some fact acting anticoagulants I started feeling better from the blood clot and from mastitis (lots of drugs, loads of sleep - thanks Mom!, and lots of immune boosters helped there), but I was still working on the emotional side of my brain trying to round up the courage to try nursing again. It had been a week or so since Mia had last nursed. I was still pumping around the clock (just like I would have been nursing around the clock) and Mia was gaining weight, and I was losing weight (one of the benefits of lactation!) But, after the emotional and physical rollercoaster we had gone through in just one month, I still wasn’t ready for it. I was beating myself up in my head for not trying, but I had lots of questions and situations I wasn’t sure if I was ready to face.

In the months to come, I did try a handful of times to nurse Mia. There were times when I thought maybe she was latching on, but, as it turned out, she eventually refused nursing and went through fits if I tried. This can happen if a baby gets used to a bottle and its faster flow. After 4ish months with scattered bouts of trying, I officially gave up and surrendered myself to be an “Exclusive Pumper.”

When I finally found more confidence to discuss this with more people (the confidence came as I found easier ways to pump, increase my milk supply without pumping 24/7, and finding an exclusive pumpers group online), many remarked that they were surprised I had not just given into formula. I do not know why I did not do that either. I think there is something ingrained in my brain—perhaps a very stubborn streak—that said I did not want to try that. I also felt like I owed it to Mia and myself. Thus far, I had been able to maintain an adequate milk supply without having to take supplements and was able to provide Mia with more than a day’s worth of milk every day. I kind of felt like if God blessed me with this much milk, I should use it!

You would think that if I was so stubborn, then why didn’t I persist in nursing? And perhaps we will never know the answer to the question, but I do know that when I decided to just pump, I did feel a significant weight pulled off my shoulders and a lot of relief. I look back at the last 10 months and am grateful we have come this far and am excited that there are only 2 months left in my year-long journey of pumping and have more determination, knowledge, sympathy, expertise and compassion for nursing/pumping/formula-feeding mothers.

And here I will explain HOW I did it.

In order to exclusively pump, there are a few things you will need in your arsenal of tools:

  1. A really good breastpump. Double electric pumps are the best, and I recommend Medela Pump in Style Advanced. Ameda Purely Yours and Lansinoh's double electric are also highly rated. You can buy, borrow, or rent. I've been particularly blessed by my gracious SIL, who loaned me the Medela PISA from day one. I don't think she realized quite how much use I'd get out of it, but Mia & I thank you!
  2. Extra sets of bottles, pump parts, so you don't have to wash everything every single time.
  3. A good support team. Your husband, family members, friends, etc., can make or break your willingness and ability to hold on.
  4. A hands-free pumping bra. Just google it. It looks ridiculous, but trust me, it makes it so much easier!
What I did/learned:
  • I pumped following Mia's feeding schedule, which meant pumping every 2-3 hrs for at least 10 mins each time. 20 mins/session is what is recommended, but I didn't know that at first, so I just pumped until I thought I was empty. Pumping every 2-3 hrs means pumping 8-12 times a day including overnight. This is crucial to building up and maintaining your milk supply.
  • Milk supply is based on supply & demand and your hormones for the first 12 weeks/3 months postpartum. After that, your milk supply is pretty much established and should be sustained based on the demand. I, however, was still learning the ropes here and gradually reduced my number of pumps/day from 10x to 4x by the end of 2 months (before the recommended time). I was creating enough milk that I did not need to pump each time Mia actually ate, and was able to go longer between pumping sessions. This was very nice, however, I have learned that not all women are able to do this. Some need to continue pumping around the clock the first three months or sometimes longer to maintain an adequate supply. When I did drop down to 4 pumping sessions a day, I was pumping first thing in the morning for 20 minutes, around the lunch hour for 20 minutes, around the dinner hour for 20 minutes and before bed for 20 minutes. So a total of 60 minutes/day plus a few minutes to set up and breakdown everything. In this area, I have been very blessed, although I struggled with the occasional dip in supply after 6 months.
  • There were some nights when I was too tired to feed Mia a bottle and then pump afterward and Greg helped me on occasion by giving Mia the bottle while I pumped. This made a big difference and was super helpful. I have to give a shoutout to my husband here because I know not every new dad would be willing to do that when they have to get up for work in the morning.

One of Mia's first feedings; Greg's first foray into his infamous "Daddy Daycare"
  • You need to find the right size of pump parts for you. Not all women are created equal and so the standard size for the flange may not be the right fit for you. Your pump's manufacturer may have more info on their website. I'm moving on here lest I say too much. Oh wait, that already happened. ;)

There are lots of other things I learned as I went along but that's the gist of it. It's not an easy road but it's well worth it, I believe, if you have the time, energy, and will to keep doing it.

There have been a lot of conveniences to pumping such as anyone else being able to feed Mia (like Greg, grandparents, aunts/uncles, friends, etc.) and being able to feed Mia pretty much anywhere, etc. It's also so nice that Mia has been able to hold the bottle on her own for a couple of months now!

A few cons to pumping are that you cannot really pump discreetly just anywhere like you might be able to when you nurse (it's easier to disguise a baby under a nursing wrap than a pump!) and it's simply just less equipment to lug around, which requires more upkeep. Not to mention, most moms who continue to nurse talk about the amazing bond they feel with their child from nursing. I nursed for such a short period of time under stressful circumstances that I'm not sure I ever felt that bond, so I don't know what I'm missing out on, but it sounds really special. I guess I'm just really bonded to my pump. :P But to answer that concern, I do feel very bonded with Mia despite the pumping. In my mind, we both overcame big hurdles in the last year together. She's learning from me and I from her.

And in regards to what I think I'll do Lord Willing with another child, I hope to be able to nurse. Now that I've been through this, I have a different perspective on what it takes to nurse. I know there can be challenges, but I feel like I can face another challenge in this area with more confidence and determination than I previously had, and if things do not work out the way I want them to, I hope I will not beat myself up the same way I did with Mia. I will also seek out more support instead of withdrawing to myself, whether it's from friends/family members, or LCs or my doula. If I am to be successful at it I will need to open up about it and reach out. It really was all-consuming for quite some time, and I'd rather enjoy the newborn days (the moments of them for which I'm awake!) rather than feel guilty for not putting a baby to the boob. In an ideal world, I'd have a baby whom I primarily nursed, and pumped for on occasion, when necessary. Most moms like having the flexibility to be able to do both (nurse & bottle-feed), so that in the occasion where they are separated from their baby, they can still take a bottle and take care of their hunger needs. However, some babies are one way or the other, it's either all nursing and no bottle or all bottle and no nursing. But whatever boat I find myself in, I hope I've grown enough as a person to realize that while feeding and taking care of my baby is very important, it's not a do or die matter (for me). As a friend once told me, happy mom = happy baby, and it's not just nature, but also nurture!

So, there you have it. Just another day in the life of an EP'er. And you thought I was gonna talk about Eden Prairie, my beloved hometown, & its feeding style. Don't worry Rose, that post is on the docket as well.

What has been your experience? Do you know any "EPers" or women who have taken a different path feeding? Questions/Comments/Concerns? :P

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Now that Megan has called me out in the two previous posts, I suppose it's time to write a little something about our Phoenix trip.

Megan, Mia, and I spent the second week in February vacationing in Arizona. It was great to head out west again after nearly two years since our last visit. We do have some history, in fact, in Phoenix. In 2005 , before we started dating, Megan and I traveled to Phoenix with a group of friends over spring break. Actually I took a trip and Megan tagged along, but that story is for another time. Then in 2008 we returned to join the entire Wiley family for a week of vacation in the hot sun. This time around we got to share the experience for the first time with little Mia. Unfortunately the entire Wiley clan was not able to make it this year, but the three of us joined Jack, Rhonda, Nate, and Jenna for the week. The weather was nice but not quite warm enough to sit by the pool. We spent more days sight seeing and exploring than we did on the previous trip. Mia seemed to enjoy herself on all the outings but most of all enjoyed lots of family time with Uncle Nate, Aunt Jenna, Mommo, and Papa Jack. Below are some pictures and highlights from the trip. Enjoy.

Babies fly free

Overlooking Phoenix from South Mountain

Mia greeting all of you from the botanical gardens

Mia showing you how it's done with tangerines

Hiking in Sedona

The entire crew

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

a sneak peak

While Greg surmises his thoughts about our trip I thought I'd give you all a little teaser about something else...

In my corner of the world, I occasionally receive questions about certain atypical things that I do as a person or a mom, mostly related to mothering. It usually starts off along the lines of a well-meaning question, "What prompted you to choose ___?"

Since I have been asked about a few things in particular of late, I've decided to dedicate a few posts to these topics that may be helpful whether the reader is a parent or not -- who knows, you may be sitting in my shoes one day and think, "Man, I'm really glad Megan posted about _____ that one time." I'd like my shoes back though when you are done with them. Anyway, if you're really not interested in the topic, feel free to skip right over it. I'm sure there will be tons of other entries as we go along filled with pictures of Mia the Bambina growing up all big 'n stuff.

Posts you can anticipate in hopefully the near future:
About Cloth Diapering
About Natural Childbirth
About Feeding - EP style

Makes me sound of kooky, doesn't it? Well before you think I'm totally crazy let me just tell you flat-out that I don't try to be one or the other when it comes to parenting. I'd like to think I'm "eclectic". There are lots of way to do things and I do not submit that my ways are better OR that there is only one way to do diapering, childbirth, or feeding, what have you. Rather, these are situations we as a family have come to where we've made a choice often times based on a preexisting condition or preference, and we chose what seemed best or made the most sense for us at the time, and I always try to leave the door open if a change needs to be made. I will discuss some of these specifics when I write about each subject. But stay could get interesting!

Monday, February 15, 2010

We're back!

We're back from a great trip to Phoenix and while I have lots of things on my mind, Greg wants to post about our trip so I'll just leave you with one teaser photo from Arizona...hopefully this will tide you over till he gets the job done!

I seriously doubt this would be one of the photos Greg would upload, so I think it's pretty safe to assume it'll be okay if I upload it myself! This is Mia with a vista from South Mountain.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

a reprieve

Reprieve: to give relief or deliverance to for a time (Merriam-Webster,

I love that word...

Two reprieves:
1. A reprieve from the last post, which was so emotional that if I continued to focus on it, as beautifully tragic as it is, I would never move on.

2. We are off to Phoenix this week for a little reprieve with my family. I love that area and it will be good to spend time with them.

Here's another picture of Lil' Miss Mia. We took a walk yesterday to a park in our neighborhood and I was delighted to see they had bucket swings. She was too.

See you when we get back!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Soft Spot

Sometimes, things just hit you in a soft spot. I haven't generally linked to other blogs on my blog yet, mainly because who I follow shows up on the feed to the right. However, I came across this blog today on a babycenter group I'm in, and basically just let the tears flow. I've been a bit emo lately -- maybe motherhood is getting the better of me -- but this story struck me deeply. There was a time when I thought Mia may have been born with Down's, based on an ultrasound we had when Mia was 17 weeks. In my heart of hearts, I seriously doubted that she would be born with it, but the fear still lingered in the back of my head. Instead of having D.S., she was just born incredibly small for her age, which presented its own set of complications, which she has thankfully (to God) outgrown. But when I read her story, I was so moved by her honesty and her journey. How would I have felt? Reacted? The pregnancy is JUST the beginning and there are so many unknowns, so many expectations, hopes, and dreams and when the child arrives, your world can be turned upside down in ways you could have never imagined and you are compelled to grow and enlarge your heart, even when it didn't seem possible.

So, in honor of this woman, who(m?) I don't know, I'm going to post pictures of our own wonderwoman, Mia, fresh today from her park playdate with new (and one "old") friends, while I listen to her breathe deeply in a contented slumber via her video monitor:

Strangely, I've had the lyrics to "Let the Waters Rise" by Mikeschair in my head as I read this story. Here are just a few of the lines (but 'tis better to actually hear the song):

Don’t know where to begin
It's like my worlds caving in
And I try but I can't control my fear
Where do I go from here

Sometimes it's so hard to pray
When You feel so far away
but I am willing to go where You want me to
God I Trust You

There's a raging sea
Right in front of me
Wants to pull me in
Bring me to my knees

So let the waters rise
If You want them to
I will follow You
I will follow You

Sometimes you just never know. And what seems like the most tragic things can often become the most beautiful.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Yesterday was a funny day for us, but I believe the story starts on Saturday.
We were expecting company late Saturday/early Sunday morning, so Saturday Greg & I were busy cleaning up our house for our guest. Having people over is always a good motivation for us to tackle projects around the house, and we got three major projects out of the way (getting rid of old computers; returning borrowed baby equipment; and moving a bunch of storage stuff into the garage, thus cleaning up our front room). Even though I felt stressed on Saturday trying to get everything done + grocery shopping, somehow it did all get done, and we were able to turn in before midnight. Yet, it was one of those nights where you know your visitor is coming after-hours, and even though you leave instructions, a key, etc., you are still anxious hoping they make it in okay. We heard our visitor make it in okay and get settled, but for whatever reason, we ourselves couldn't get settled. I think we tossed and turned for a couple of hours before we fell asleep, and even then, I think I clenched my jaw, hunched my shoulders, and thought, I hope I remember to wake up in the morning, or I hope I make coffee early enough ... just silly things that prevented a good slumber.

We must've sent those vibes to Mia's room, because she woke up at the odd hour of 6:30/6:45am Sunday. She would whine on and off for a few minutes until I finally did get her ten minutes till 7. She was fussy and irritable -- already cranky, I believe, from her early wake-up time. Sunday was the first day Mia could have gone to the babies bible class at church, since she just passed 9 months, but based on the way she was acting, I didn't think it was the best time to try it. So, anyway, off we went to church, and no lie...after getting there, I'm not really even sure what happened.
Sometime during bible class I took her to the nursery so she could eat and hopefully fall asleep. She ate but wouldn't fall asleep. I was trying all my tricks, but it seemed futile. So, I brought her back out during the beginning of worship, and she sat in between me and Greg for a bit, but eventually got a little too loud/fussy. So, Greg took her back to the training room, where she got to sit with other loud children who need help learning how to sit in the auditorium. Sometimes it's a hilarious room to be in. I could see Greg & Mia in the room from my viewpoint in the auditorium and could tell she still wasn't having the best of times. Greg texted me (during church, scandal!) and said, "Work called. I need help," which I thought was code for, "Mia's crying, please come help me." But no, he actually meant that HIS work had called. Odd for a Sunday, I tell you. So, Greg had to take a call outside, while I was holding Mia in the foyer.

Turns out, it was a bad day for lots of kids. One kid, who shall go by "E," was taken out more than once and given a few good swats. Another parent, who shall go by "C," told me that his daughter "J" "doesn't really like church." That statement made me laugh out loud. My friend "J" was out with her daughter "L," who had slumped on the floor reading books. And then there were whole families in the foyer, and a baby "A" just a couple months older than Mia, whining and not wanting to go to sleep.

So, what was the sermon about? I think it was about Grace, but I'm not really sure. Reminds me of the verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9 where Paul quotes the Lord: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," where I know that God gives us enough grace for each day.

Well, back to our story, where I explain my title of "Wishin'". You may think I was just wishing she'd fall asleep during church, and while this is true, this isn't what I really wished for after Sunday morning services were said and done.
Mia was in the overtired and quiet phase, and when her Aunt Amanda asked to hold her after church, I wasn't optimistic that it would necessarily go over well, seeing that Mia was so ready for a nap.

However, Amanda was wearing a long necklace with little beads interspersed along the chain, which Mia found fascinating and almost like a little comfort tool, and snuggled contentedly against Amanda. Greg and I left Mia with Amanda for a while as we chatted with some friends & visitors. Later, I wondered where Mia was as some visitors wanted to see her, and the look of shock on my face when I saw my two good friends Linz & Laura, surrounded by Amanda & Mia, also shocked, was due to this scene:

Mia is not the kind of baby that will fall asleep on anybody just anywhere. She hasn't pulled a move like that since was probably 3 months old. Only in rare occasions will she just pacify herself to sleep in public on another person, although I wish that were not the norm.
So here I was seeing this sight, just shocked that she had done that. And righteously jealous too, I believe.

Thus, the "wishin'" is because I wish she would do that more often for me or Greg. It would make certain situations so much easier!! (And while it looks like Mia is sucking her thumb, she actually has one of the beads from Amanda's necklace clasped in her hand almost to her mouth.) Silly bebe!

PS: We were all granted grace later in the day, as Mia took an almost unprecedented Sunday afternoon nap for about 2.5-3 hrs, and Greg & I got our own naps in too. Very good!